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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

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Norton to Defend D.C. Bill Requiring Health Plans to Cover Contraceptives and Other Essential Heath Services for Women

Dec 5, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said she would vigorously defend from congressional interference a bill passed by the District of Columbia Council today that, among other things, requires health plans to provide coverage for preventive health services for women, including contraceptives.  Twenty-eight states currently have laws requiring insurance plans that cover prescription drugs to cover contraceptives.

“I applaud the District of Columbia for taking the necessary steps to ensure essential health services for women are included at no extra cost in health care plans, just as 28 states already do,” Norton said.  “D.C. women are the only U.S. residents whose local jurisdiction is blocked from spending local dollars on abortion services.  Our residents should not also be forced to pay for contraceptives, which make abortions unnecessary, and other essential services, such as cancer screenings.  I will fight tirelessly to defend this important D.C. bill from being overturned by Republicans in Congress.”

Federal regulations promulgated under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) during the Obama administration required most health plans to cover contraceptives for women.  The ACA’s contraceptive mandate was challenged in court, and the U.S. Supreme Court held in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which applies to the federal government and the D.C. government, but not state governments, prohibits the contraceptive mandate from being enforced at least against closely held private companies.  However, in October, the Trump Administration issued a rule to allow most employers to decline to provide such coverage if they have religious or moral objections.

Last Congress, Norton defeated multiple Republican attempts to block D.C.’s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees, their spouses and dependents based on their reproductive health decisions.  RHNDA is now law.  This year, the House-passed fiscal year 2018 D.C. Appropriations bill blocks D.C. from using its local funds to enforce RHNDA.  The Senate FY18 D.C. Appropriations bill does not block RHNDA, and Norton believes she can again keep RHNDA from being blocked.  The current FY18 continuing resolution blocks D.C. from spending its local funds on abortions for low-income women.